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Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

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214*                                  LIFE  OF
the Serpent-bearer which stand over head, shine with
a tremulous light. Like distant mountains, single
clouds appear in the south, the mists spread like fogs
over the zenith, and distant thunder announces the
refreshing rain.....Scarcely has the surface
of the earth been moistened, when the fragrant steppe
is covered with the  most varied grasses.    Attracted
by the light, low plants unfold their slumbering leaves
and greet the rising sun, together with the  song of
birds, and  the   opening  buds   of   the   water-plants.
Iforses and cattle graze in the full enjoyment of life.
The beautifully-spotted jaguar hides in the high grass.,
and, cat-like, springs to catch the passing animals,
.    .    .    .    Sometimes one sees the damp clay on the
shores of the morasses rise slowly and by pieces., with
a* violent noise like the  eruption of little slime vol-
canoes, the earth is thrown high in the air;    .    . they
who are familiar with this phenomenon fly from the
spot., for a gigantic water-serpent, or a thick-skinned
crocodile rises  from   the   cavity,   awaked   from   the
simulated   death  by the  showers   of rain.    As   the
rivers gradually swell, nature forces the same animals
which were perishing with thirst for the first half of
the year on the waterless  dusty, soil,  to live now as
amphibious animals; a portion of the steppes seems
like a vast inland sea.    The mares retire with their
foals to the higher banks3 which project like islands'
from  the   surface   of   the   water.      The   dry  space
decreases day by day.    The  crowded animals swim
about  for  hours  in   search   of pasture,   and  find  a
sparing subsistence from the rich grass which rises
above the brown-coloured fermenting water.    Many
foals are drowned, many are caught by the crocodiles,
Mlled by a blow from their jagged tails? and then
devoured; one often sees horses and cattle which have
escaped the claws of these voracious  animals,   and
"bear the traces of their sharp teeth in their thighs.
But as crocodiles and tigers here fight against
feorses and cattle, we also see man opposed to man in
various parts of these deserts. With unnatural blood-